Paranoid Notes on the Strange Death of Bruce Lee
December 4, 1978
The gray-haired judge presiding in Arraignment Room No. 2A had spent the better part of the morning listening to the same old story about how this defendant put a voodoo spell on that plaintiff’s gypsy cab, thereby causing the vehicle to lose its steering column while making a 40-mile an hour U-turn on the FDR Drive. The stuff was pretty routine for the gray-haired judge.
Now, however, he was up against something really tough. The plaintiff, Alan J. Weberman — aka A.J., well-known garbologist, assassinationologist, and semi-leader of the Youth International Party (YIP) — was charging that defendant William H. Depperman — former YIP fellow traveler, now leader and close-to-only member of the Assassination Information Committee (AIC) — had menaced him with a six-inch blade on Bleecker Street.
The pulling of a shiv was well within the gray-haired judge’s frame of reference. The reasons for the alleged crime, however, were somewhat baffling. According to Weberman’s statement, Depperman is in the midst of waging “a one-man counterinsurgency campaign against the Yippies because he claims we’re not Communistic enough.” Depperman, a hairy hulk of frazzled nerves, dismissed these allegations as impossible since Weberman is no “legitimate leftist” but rather “a CIA agent.” Depperman countercharged that it is actually Weberman who plans violent action. As proof, Depperman waved a WANTED — DEAD OR ALIVE, WILLIAM H. DEPPERMAN, AKA THE DIAPERMAN poster in front of the judge, a poster supposedly distributed by Weberman and his Yippie cohorts. The text of the WANTED poster depicts Depperman as a “rat-faced, asshole, scumfaced NAZI pig Narc.” It goes on to charge that Depperman is nothing more or less than an “FBI informer.”
With each new assertion by Depperman that it was really Weberman, not he, who worked for the intelligence arm of the United States government, the gray-haired judge rolled his eyes. He had been cast as arbitrator in a War of the Paranoids, and he was not too happy about it.
My interest in this case is many-fold. First of all, paranoia, the leftover sixties variety, is news this week, and I always make an effort to stay current. I also have a deep-running passion for paranoids, an obsession which began to creep one Early Show afternoon following a Hebrew school class on the Holocaust as I watched Ralph Meeker open a black box full of seething uranium. Since then I have come to take a religious view of paranoia and its adherents. The belief that nothing in the universe happens by chance strikes me as essentially theological. Trilateral Committee, Rockefeller, God, Satan, Reverend Moon — it’s all the same kettle of Prime Movers to me.
During my paranoia research I have run across some good one-liners. Jackie Mason, the noted paranoid who once gave Ed Sullivan the finger on national television, has said he doesn’t like to go to football games because when the players huddle he’s positive they’re talking about him. Michael Corleone was famous for not wanting to “wipe out everybody, just my enemies.” Personally, I can pass on the more dangerous paranoids like Corleone and Jim Jones. I prefer to stick with less harmful types like Weberman and Depperman. After all, it was A.J. who voiced the true credo of the slightly gone: “Just because you don’t think they’re out to get you doesn’t mean they’re not.”
But it was not my appreciation of Weberman’s stand-up style that attracted me to his case against Depperman. It was my consuming interest in the strange death of Bruce Lee.
I first became aware of the awesome cross-cultural power of Bruce E. Lee while watching Enter the Dragon at the Lyric Theatre on Forty-second Street. The vengeful Bruce was on the verge of killing a bad white boy who earlier in the film had tried to rape a Lee sister, causing the woman to commit suicide. Now, however, the hoodlum was staggering on one edge of the Cinemascope screen, while on the other Bruce was winding himself into a corkscrew of death. Then Lee flung himself, feet first, toward the bad guy. Bruce slow-motioned through the air for what seemed an eternity. Just before Bruce planted his dynamite feet into the white guy’s soon-to-be-demolished rib cage, a cry came from a black wino sitting behind me. “Don’t hurt him so bad, Bruce. Kill the motherfucker. But don’t hurt him so bad.” All movie long the wino had been rooting for all the whiteys to get dead, so his show of mercy for the chief bad white guy puzzled me. The only conclusion was that somewhere down deep the wino had connected with the notion that Bruce Lee possessed within his seemingly slight body a cosmic force far more terrible than a battery of M-16s. Even a Forty-second Street wino doesn’t want to be eyeball to eyeball with that kind of power.
This incident occurred soon before the fall of Nam. I coupled the calendar reference with the fact that audiences for Bruce Lee movies have always been almost exclusively black and Puerto Rican — even when the films were only playing down in Chinatown — and came up with the Third World Alliance Theory. The theory postulates that blacks and Puerto Ricans in New York were giant Bruce Lee fans because the United States lost the Vietnam War. Sense could be made of it: For years blacks and Puerto Ricans hadn’t been getting squat in the city due to a heavy white boot heel. Now they were checking the Daily News and seeing little guys, a bunch of egg-roll makers, kicking whitey’s butt in Nam. Kicking whitey’s technological butt. But how were they managing it? What secret weapon did they have? The answer was clear to anyone watching The Chinese Connection or Fists of Fury.
To any student of paranoia (those with some instinct for pop culture, that is) the Third World Alliance Theory had to seem tenable. After all, times were changing. The Nam War exposed the folly of blindly relying on a computerized military. Balances were turned upside down. No longer could the Anderson family sleep soundly snuggled beneath the thick metal sheets of vaunted American technology. Jimmy Stewart and the SAC were not up there ready to ward off real and imagined cascades of plague. If they were, they were cooping. It was every man for himself — I mean, how capable are you with your hands and feet, buddy? To the student of cross-cultural paranoia, this situation was fascinating. Kung fu could be the ultimate weapon of these new times, and Bruce Lee its Messiah. And before Lee was finished preaching in the drive-in and sleaze Temples of the Inner City, Western civilization could go down the tube in a flurry of sidekicks and nunchakas. Would the CIA allow a menace to exist? Obviously, something had to be done.
Perhaps that something was done back in 1973 when Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong under distinctly mysterious circumstances. The first report of Lee’s death said he succumbed to “marijuana poisoning.” This had to be the most laughable cover story ever invented. Later the cause of death shifted to “water on the brain,” whatever that is. I decided to do some checking. I went to Aaron Banks’s New York Karate Academy, then and now located above a male burlesque house and Spanish-language theater on Seventh Avenue. Banks, who looks like Dracula and once claimed to have held the record for the most boards broken within a given space of time, turned out to be a valuable source. He said, “quite confidentially,” that Lee had died of the Iron Fist. “An ancient martial arts ritual,” Banks intoned as he shoved several monthly fees into his pocket.
Banks’s story went as follows: Several of the elder Manchu Dynasty martial arts teachers were worried about Bruce Lee. Having watched several of his films, they decreed Lee — who was no fake, but rather a kung fu genius who developed his own style of jeet june do — was giving away too many of the ancient Oriental secrets. The Masters acquired some box-office figures from Variety and saw that Lee’s movies were cleaning up in America. This was terrible, the Masters decided, since Americans are inferior, potentially mindlessly violent people, and thus not to be trusted with these secrets to ultimate power. Then, according to Banks, the Masters dispatched an emissary to reason with Lee. Bruce, however, was already as big as Valentino in Hong Kong, and arrogant to boot. He would not agree to stop making films. So the emissary, a Great Master, simply laid his hand on Bruce’s shoulder for a moment. This, Banks said, was the Iron Fist, a martial arts technique only the Great Masters, with their consummate knowledge of brain-and-body waves, can apply.
Weeks later, as if a slow-working poison were pushing through him, Lee’s body functions began to ebb. Eventually, they stopped dead. That was why, Banks said, the doctors could never successfully determine the cause of Lee’s death. This sounded a little odd to me, but a quick check of dojo around the city indicated that, almost to a man, martial arts students believed in the Great Masters’ Theory. Surprising, too, was the fact most students believed the Masters’ findings. They believed they were unworthy of such great knowledge.
This Great Masters’ Theory sounded morally logical on the surface. But natural paranoia told me not to accept it wholesale. Someone, I suspected — probably Rockefeller — had to savvy the significance of the Third World Alliance Lee was forging through his films. The fact that Lee died while making Game of Death, in which he co-starred with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — a pairing that would have cemented the Alliance — added to my suspicions. I figured the Great Masters were paid off to off Bruce Lee, assuming Great Masters can be bought.
So, you can dig my surprise and all-consuming interest when I first came upon the slew of wall posters currently plastered all around downtown claiming BRUCE LEE WAS MURDERED BY HONG KONG AND WORLDWIDE FILM KING, MULTI*NATIONAL CAPITALIST* BANKER RUN RUN SHAW.
The poster goes on, at great length and copious detail and in minute type, to outline how Bruce, once a low-wage contract employee for the Shaw Brothers’ Hong Kong cinema combine, broke away and formed his own production corporation. This new company, spearheaded by Lee’s own fabulous box-office appeal, soon was on the verge of eclipsing Shaw’s empire. Shaw, according to the wall poster, “a monopoly capitalist like the Rockefellers, Mellons, Duponts, and Rothschilds,” had no choice but to destroy Lee. Shaw had no compunction about murder, the poster says, once being responsible for blowing up “a planeload of Cathay Productions executives over Taiwan.” Shaw contacted one Betty Ting Pei, a girlfriend of Lee, and a Dr. Chu-Pro-hywe (described as a “contract killer”). Together these two cooked up an elaborate poisoning scheme that succeeded in killing Lee on July 20, 1973.
As outlandish as these charges appear to be, I made it an interesting document. While the poster does not take into account the cross-cultural significance or postulate paranoia by right-wing factions over the potential Third World Alliance, it refuted the accepted Great Masters’ Theory. At the very least, the poster was the equal of much of the recent graffiti around town, including the WORSHIP GOD scrawl on every pay phone from here to Sheepshead Bay, SAMO, and the BECOME A CATHOLIC legend on the majority of abandoned buildings in Harlem. Besides, wall posters, too, are in the news this week.
A small sidebar on the poster said it was the work of a group called “The Assassination Information Committee.”
The AIC described itself as “originally a government counterinsurgency group that ‘formed’ after a Mark Lane talk at NYU in the spring of 1975. The AIC was taken over democratically on October 23, 1975, when members voted by secret ballot to present the Dealey Plaza ‘tramp’ photographs and Watergate ‘burglars’ photo-overlays [positive transparencies which line up the ear cartilages on Frank Fiorini Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt] at a talk again to be given by Mark Lane, but sponsored by the NY AIC. Lane refused. Government people… ran off with the keys, mailing list, and checkbook of this supposed ‘grassroots’ organization, but by doing so they lost control, and discredited themselves and their methods. Consequently, the AIC of NY is probably the only legitimate assassination research group in this country.”
I read the above and couldn’t make head or tail of it. But then, recognizing telltale paranoia phrases like “counterinsurgency,” I re-read it with a more informed (i.e., paranoid) headset. After which I concluded I was most likely dealing with a termite left group convinced that Mark Lane is a government plant attempting to divert “real” investigation into the John F. Kennedy assassination. I was not far wrong. After glancing at other wall posters under the AIC banner, including LARRY FLYNT SHOOTING IS LATEST CIA PUBLICITY STUNT, I spied a more revealing one. This said: Total Media Blackout… with trumped-up charges. Capitalist state harassing William H. Depperman, coordinator of the Assassination Information Committee of New York… First Assassination Researcher Arrested.” Then I dug that if I was to get information on the Great Masters’ and Third World Alliance theories, I would have to deal with this Depperman.
At the outset I knew nothing of Depperman other than he sometimes gave out leaflets in Washington Square and was rumored to have once broken Bob Fass’s (late of WBAI) nose with a short right. But, being an auteurist, I was determined to ferret out the possible role of Raymond Chow, the director of Enter the Dragon, in Lee’s death. So I went to ten East Sixteenth Street, the address given on the AIC posters. The place, a gray apartment house nestled amongst warehouses, turned out to be Depperman’s home. I rang the bell under his mailbox and was buzzed in. After an unpleasant ride in a cattlecar elevator, I knocked on Depperman’s door. Nobody answered. I assumed the guy was paranoid so didn’t blame him for not opening the door for someone he didn’t know. I slipped a note under the door describing who I was and my interest in the wall posters.
The next day I got a call from Depperrnan. Before he even let me say word one about the Third World Alliance Theory, Depperman commandeered the conversation. In a voice that had all the resonance of feeding time in Iowa, he said, “Don’t tell me you’re interested in Bruce Lee. I know who you are. I’ve checked you out. You work with Weberman. You are straight from Central Intelligence. If you want to talk to me, you’ll have to put up money, big money. Five thousand dollars. Maybe ten thousand dollars. You might not have the money, but your boss does. So, listen, you agent, pay. Cash. No checks.” He hung up.
This was the first time I had ever been accused of being a CIA agent. It was no fun. Sure, I knew calling other people government agents is common among assassination researchers. Once Mae Brussell, who calls everyone an agent, said I.F. Stone was a CIA operative at the Elgin Theater. That just about killed her credibility amongst the old-line leftists, and Brussell’s career suffered afterward. Still, I was only after a few scraps of information and did not like being called an agent of any government — especially since I was not drawing a check for my supposed services. I was certainly not “with Weberman.” Once when I marched in a Yippie Smoke-In Parade up Fifth Avenue a Yip reached over the picket fence surrounding the sidewalk cafe of the St. Moritz Hotel, thrust his greasy hand into a Madison Avenue lady’s spinach salad, gobbled a fistful of leaves, and then stuck his green-specked tongue out, saying, “Your lifestyle stinks.” But I wouldn’t exactly call this being “with Weberman.” Who was this idiot Depperman to call me a CIA agent?
I decided to find out. Discounting talking to Depperman directly, inasmuch as I doubted Rupert Murdoch’s people would look too kindly on an expense report listed “talking to paranoid, $10,000,” I called Joel Meyers. I got Meyers’s name from a Depperman poster entitled TAKEOVER FROM WITHIN OF ASSASSINATION INFORMATION COMMITTEE BY COMMUNIST-CADRE “MARXIST” IS DEFEATED. In this poster Depperman accuses Meyers, an old-line Trot whose group was the only one to support Lin Paio at the recent City Center Mao rally, of being the leader of a “government group designed to pace, contain, manipulate, sabotage, and neutralize the Assassination Information Committee of New York.”
Meyers responded by painting Depperman as a right-wing son of a “rock-ribbed Republican family” in a counter-poster affixed to the blue formica wall of Whalen’s at Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street. He said Depperman, somewhere in his middle thirties, had gone to medical school in Kentucky but allegedly was thrown out for smoking pot. Meyers said Depperman’s left-wing activity was new, and that he “voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Nixon twice, in 1968 and 1972.” According to the poster, Depperman previously had worked in a “united front” with Meyers’s group, but split after a tactical dispute over an incident with police in Washington Square Park. The poster goes on to say the Assassination Information Committee “consists of only Depperman and one dogged follower,” the teenaged Brian Huber “whom Depperman calls Brainless.”
On the phone Meyers had a somewhat more charitable view of Depperman. “Well,” he said, “I have no evidence that he is hopelessly psychotic as of yet. We have hopes of making a Bolshevik out of him yet. Trouble is, Depperman has a conspiratorial theory of history. He thinks everyone is an agent until proven otherwise. But we’ll keep trying to bring him to his senses. Small groups tend to be desperate for members. We will spend huge amounts of time trying to win over a very few people.”
About the Bruce Lee material, Meyers thought, “It’s something out of the ordinary for Depperman. He probably read some kung fu magazines and made the rest up.” This was not encouraging news.
Still, I pressed on for insight into the Depperman character, talking to John Zirinsky, a lawyer, and David White, a union official. According to his wall posters, Depperman has been “the target of a coordinated attack by many arms of the state,” as well as “twenty-four-hour telephone harassment and a mail cover.” Part of this harassment, Depperman says, was his recent arrest on criminal mischief charges for allegedly stenciling the Washington Square arch with slogans to the effect that the Moonies and Yippies are government agents. Depperman claims the “endless series of pretrial hearings (ten to fifteen) are… one of its [the govt.’s] prime ways of neutralizing legitimate leftists.” He further charges he has been sabotaged in much more elaborate and nefarious ways, saying, “On every court date a demonstration was planned and on every court date it rained!” Then Depperman adds, in parenthesis, “USA admitted to increasing the monsoon rainfall on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War.”
In any event, John Zirinsky, legal aid lawyer and member of the Lawyers’ Guild who has often been identified with left causes, was assigned to represent Depperman in this case. Zirinsky says he did his best, but all sorts of arguments arose with his client. “Soon,” Zirinsky says, “the guy was plastering the entire courthouse area with posters attacking me as a government plant. And all during that time he was pleading with me to continue with his defense. Everyone was asking me what was going on.” Zirinsky, a sober type, did not see the humor in this situation. He says, “Besides, it was clear to me the guy didn’t have even the rudiments of leftist thought.” Eventually, Zirinsky withdrew from the case, prompting a triumphant Depperman wall poster saying, “Zirinsky’s withdrawal reflects the failure of the state and the Rockefeller family strategy against Depperman…”
Woe is the Dep. A few months ago, he was fired from his job as a cardiopulmonary technician at the Hospital for Joint Disease. Depperman says it was for his “political activities,” primarily his drive to organize R.N.’s at the institution. The management claims Depperman “falsified records” to avoid getting caught for coming in late. Depperman has described the case in two lengthy wall posters, one entitled DEPPERMAN CASE GOES TO ARBITRATION, MANAGEMENT LOSES AT 1ST HEARING, and another explained WHY THE CIA IS LIKELY TO BE BEHIND MANAGEMENT’S NEW STRATEGY. Both of these posters were signed by the “Save the Jobs Unity Coalition,” not the AIC.
As of now, Depperman has yet to be rehired. David White, of the medical services union No. 1199, represented Depperman at his arbitration hearing. In the wall posters, Depperman implies that White was acting in collusion with management. White says, “He thinks I was working with management? Oh, boy. I don’t know. I’ll tell you, there was no reason we should have lost that case. Management really didn’t have a thing on Depperman. He said he filled in the wrong time because his watch was slow. That’s not grounds for firing someone. But during the hearing, Depperman just wouldn’t shut up. I had to stop the proceedings a dozen times to tell him to quiet down. He kept jumping up and calling the arbitrator a tool of the oppressors.” White agrees that most likely management was “just trying to get rid of Depperman.” But not because Dep was union-organizing. “Are you kidding?” White says. “He almost killed our drive. He was going around talking about general strikes and preparing the workers for revolution. You can’t talk to workers like that.”
With each new piece of info I picked up on Depperman, I became more convinced a freshly slivered section of the Dep medulla sold to an independent laboratory might fetch a handsome price. For sure the cat was going into the Paranoia Hall of Fame on the first ballot. I was beginning to give up on ever getting any intelligence out of this guy on either the Great Masters’ or the Third World Alliance theory.
But the most damaging anti-Depperman testimony was yet to come. It was provided by Depperman’s arch-enemies, the Yippies. In his wall poster campaign, Depperman regularly derides the Yips as a government-funded group attempting to “sidetrack people on drugs and counterculture,” thereby leading the masses “back into the fold of the Republican party.” The most recurring and bizarre Depperman charge, however, is that A.J. Weberman, the Yippie theoretician, is “suppressing his own book.”
The book, Coup d’État in America, written by Weberman and Michael Canfield, details how the CIA allegedly seized control of the United States government on November 22, 1963. Depperman claims Coup d’État, which contains the famous “tramp” pictures and photo-overlays that supposedly prove Frank Sturgis and Howard Hunt were on the scene that day in Dallas, is an example of “controlled release” of assassination material. He says A.J. “must be” a CIA agent to gain access to the overlays in the first place, and that since “exposing” the evidence Weberman has done much “to make the information contradictory,” thereby confusing real assassination researchers.
Now I must admit, I am somewhat biased in this particular matter, since A.J. Weberman, while without a doubt a world-class paranoid, is also one of the most entertaining and hamisha guys I know. And knowing A.J. as I do, I could see that these book “suppression” charges were really getting under his skin. Going into one of his hour-long stare rages, Weberman barked, “What a Daffyman the Deppermonster is! Why would I fucking suppress my own book? I worked months on that book. It’s the hardest thing I ever did. Harder than a garbology project. Suppress my own book? Only a moron with a low rate of metabolism like the Daffymonster would think that.”
Then A.J. discussed Depperman from the historical perspective, saying “he first came around in 1974, around there. He said he wanted to help put out the Yipster Times. You know, he’d do any shit work. Dana [Beale] was suspicious of him, but I was taken in. I went by his pad and he had all the Dylan records and the Dylan bootlegs, I thought he was cool. It was a moment of weakness. But after the book came out, he started acting suspicious. He put out stickers for the book everywhere. He was overzealous. He put stickers all over the bookstores and they started calling me saying they wouldn’t stock the book anymore. I didn’t know what was happening, then I find out it’s Depperman. We told him to stop, but then he gets his own stickers printed up. Then we realized he was waging some kind of campaign against us. He was spreading all kinds of disinformation. Then he started beating up Yippies. He broke Fass’s nose. He gave Aaron [Kay, the Yippie pie-thrower] a black eye. He’s tough, he’s a fucking powerful guy. We knew he couldn’t be a Yippie, he’s too crazy to be a Yippie. We had to investigate him.”
Then A.J. pulled out part of his FBI file. A.J. obtained the file under the Freedom of Information Act, a statute he makes use of quite often. FBI files supposedly contain most of what the government has on you, but the names of the “informants” and anything you really want to know is blacked out with magic marker. The Yippies have spent many evenings over a piece of hash the size of a deflated football attempting to remember if it was really Sally from Madison or Jim from California who was present on the nights described in the file. On this particular page, however, A.J. claims, the “informer’s” name was insufficiently disguised. “Look,” he said, pointing to a Xeroxed smudge, “you can see the D and the top of an E, also, look, there’s the two Ls. It’s Depperman, no doubt about it. He’s an informer sent to infiltrate us. Probably got into it after he got kicked out of medical school. The reason the FBI sent us this file with the name not completely blacked out is even they couldn’t stand the Deppermouth anymore. The Deppermonster is too obnoxious even for the feds!”
Try as I might, however, I could only distinguish half an L, no D or E. I smoked two more joints, after which I did spot another L, which was not enough to convince me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it was actually Depperman’s name beneath the blur. I did, however, agree with Weberman that Depperman’s Yippie-beating activities were to be scorned. And I also promised to show up a few days later when A.J. said Depperman would have to be in court to answer charges of knife-wielding.
I left the Yipster mansion thinking it was kind of ironic that Depperman, in his unwavering bleat that A.J. has “suppressed” his own book, had, more or less, taken over the role in Weberman’s life that A.J. himself once played in Bob Dylan’s. Back in the days when the Dylan Liberation Front assembled on MacDougal Street screaming “Hey, Bob, crawl out your window,” A.J. stole the singer’s garbage as a “people’s act.” Dylan always yelled at Weberman to “stop hassling me, man,” and eventually beat A.J. to a Greenwich Village sidewalk with karate blows. Thinking about this left one question unanswered: If Depperman is Weberman’s Weberman, who is Depperman’s Weberman? Someone, I figured, always has to be around to keep you honest.
In spite of it all, I felt a little sorry for Depperman. My heart goes out to anyone who sincerely feels the government is manipulating the weather just to harass him. After all, Depperman really was being “persecuted” for politics, whatever they may be. I decided to attempt to open the dialogue with Depperman again, affording him a chance to tell his side of the story and possibly giving me a shot at obtaining his Bruce Lee information. After learning from a reliable source that Depperman had once been approached as a potential mensa member, I wrote him a closely reasoned letter asking him to give free press a chance. I was, however, still smarting from Depperman’s accusations about me, so, just to be a bastard, I crossed out several passages in the letter and did a cut-paste job. I figured, being the paranoid he is, Depperman would spend a few anxious minutes holding the letter to a naked light bulb, attempting to see what was missing. I taped the letter to Depperman’s mailbox.
This was Sunday. Monday I stayed by my phone hoping Depperman would give a civil call. He did not. Tuesday was the hearing date, so I trudged over to the Tombs at 9:30 A.M. Near the second floor DAT intake room, I ran into Aaron Kay. Aaron pointed out two guys standing below, leaning on the circular first-floor information desk. “It’s Daffyman and Brainless,” Aaron said. Depperman looked pretty much as I expected except that he was wearing a paisley tie and seemed to have not slept in a month. Brian Huber, or “Brainless,” could have passed for a Tex Watson double.
I went downstairs to engage the pair in conversation. Depperman was in the midst of abusing Huber. Soon as I identified myself, however, he recoiled and clutched his tan attaché case as if it was doll stuffed with money. “Get away from me, you government, government pig,” he said as he edged around the circumference of the information desk. Huber followed Depperman. “I just want to ask you a couple of questions,” I said, trailing both of them. We must have went around that desk three times with Depperman shouting “Stop harassing me. Beat it. Stop harassing me,” before I gave up the ghost.
Soon the courtroom drama, which I have given you the gist of at the top of this tome, ensued. Depperman, demanding to defend himself and using some legal terms lifted out of Perry Mason, did most of the talking. A.J. was content to play the injured citizen. And, sure enough, Depperman hung himself, getting close to a contempt citation on more than one occasion. The judge told Depperman, “Look, the court is not your adversary.” To which Depperman raised his eyes as if to say, “You expect me to fall for that?” The judge held the case over until next month, prompting Depperman to quote loudly and extensively from a book called The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove. These quotes threw the West Indian court officers into giggling fits.
There will, however, be quite a bit more court in Depperman’s immediate future. After this case was adjourned, the Yippies, who were afraid to stare at Depperman during the proceedings, unfurled their sneak attack in the person of one Detective Guariello of the Sixth Precinct. Guariello was waiting in the hallway outside AR 2A to arrest Depperman on charges that he assaulted Yippie electrician Robert Druskin. Upon having the cuffs snapped on his wrist and told he was “under arrest,” Depperman screamed, “By whom, by whom?”
Then he yelled, “It’s more harassment, it’s more harassment of legitimate leftists,” as Guariello hauled him into the DAT intake room. Just before disappearing, Depperman shouted in panic to Huber, “Brian, Brian, my briefcase.” Huber, who seemed stunned by this turn of events, was slow to react, prompting Depperman to a more frenzied plea. Finally, Huber picked up the case. As he did, one of the court officers pointed to Depperman’s head and then to the briefcase, intoning, “Tick, tick, tick.”
Moments later, Depperman was gone, except for a few muffled protests emanating from the other side of the door. He would spend that night in the can. Huber waited a few moments, then split aimlessly with Depperman’s briefcase. The kid looked like Renfield lost a master. The Yippies left, too, celebrating their victory. And I figured what a drag it all was. Dealing with paranoids is a thankless task. Depperman saw me talking to Guariello before the pinch and probably, knowing his mania, thinks I was in on the arrest. Plus, who knows, we may never find out who killed Bruce Lee.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 4, 1978